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CFB Wrap-Up: Takeaways from the conference championship games

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College Football Wrap-Up recaps the most important developments from the day's action and examines their significance moving forward.

Long live the king

The college football world has belonged to Kirby Smart and Georgia for the past two years, but the king is back on his throne. Nick Saban and Alabama are once again looking down on everyone in the SEC after an incredible upset over the two-time defending champion Bulldogs on Saturday. The victory snapped Georgia's SEC-record 29-game winning streak and represents Saban's ninth SEC title in his time with Alabama.

The Crimson Tide were left for dead after a Week 2 home loss to Texas - the worst of Saban's tenure in Tuscaloosa. The defense had just been shredded by Quinn Ewers, and the offense looked so poor with Jalen Milroe at quarterback that Saban benched him in favor of Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson the following week. After the home loss, Saban met with the media and compared the setback to receiving a poor grade in class.

"So what are we going to do to get a better grade?" Saban said. "I would be shocked if this team didn't respond in a positive way."

Saying the team did, in fact, respond in a positive way might be the understatement of the year. Since that loss, the Tide have ripped off 11 straight wins, and Milroe has established himself as one of the biggest game-breakers in the SEC. Saturday's performance brought us back to Alabama teams of old, with Saban's defense absolutely stifling the explosive Georgia offense for most of the game.

UGA vs. Alabama UGA vs. rest of schedule
Points per game 24 39.6
Yards per play 5.4 7.25
Yards per game 321 496.4
3rd-down conversion % 25% 56%
Rush yards per game 78 185.5

The Milroe roller coaster was in full effect for the majority of the game, with the first-year starter flashing brilliant plays amid periods of poor play. However, he rose to the occasion on a backbreaking touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. After Georgia cut the deficit to three with 10 minutes to play, Milroe found Isaiah Bond four times for 57 yards on a 75-yard drive to push the lead back to 10.

With an inexperienced quarterback, new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and a very young roster, one could make the argument that this is Saban's best job in the last 15 years at Alabama. Whether it's enough to get the Crimson Tide into the College Football Playoff remains to be seen, but Saturday served as a very harsh reminder to the rest of the sport that the king is still firmly planted on the throne and isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Florida State's defense is playoff worthy

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It might not be the best team in the country. Given the current roster construction, it certainly isn't the most explosive. However, there's no team more resilient across the college football landscape than Florida State.

Star quarterback Jordan Travis is out for the year. Concussion symptoms sidelined backup Tate Rodemaker, who didn't exactly light it up in his first start against Florida last week. That left true freshman Brock Glenn to make his first career start Saturday in the ACC title game against Louisville. Oh, and a loss would have eliminated Florida State from playoff contention. No pressure, kid.

Turns out, most of you reading this could have played quarterback for the Seminoles on Saturday because the defense and running game wouldn't be denied in Charlotte. Louisville entered averaging 438 yards of offense per contest but was held to under 200 for the game. The offensive line was allowing under two sacks per contest but got roasted by the dominant Florida State rush for seven on the night. The Cardinals came in with 50 touchdowns on the season and left with the same number thanks to multiple stands in the red zone by the Seminoles.

Since losing Travis for the campaign, Florida State's defense has allowed one touchdown in eight quarters of action. There isn't a team in the country playing better defense than the Seminoles right now.

An undefeated Power 5 conference champion has never been left out of the playoff, but there's plenty of chatter that the Seminoles might be the first given its quarterback situation. The committee has ranked them above Texas and Alabama in every edition of the rankings thus far, and it's tough to see that changing Sunday.

Michigan wins Big Ten snooze

There's no question that the Big Ten title game has annually been the worst conference championship game from a viewer's perspective over the past decade. Since the conference split into the East and West divisions, the East holds a 10-0 advantage with an average margin of victory of 21.7 points. The latest example of the inequity between the divisions happened Saturday, with Michigan pounding Iowa 26-0 for its third straight Big Ten crown.

The game played out exactly as one would think - with Iowa completely unable and uninterested in doing anything on the offensive side of the football. The Hawkeyes entered with the worst offense in the entire country, something that was on full display against the Wolverines. Michigan held Iowa to just 155 total yards and seven first downs.

Thankfully, this is likely the end of the Big Ten West being able to back a team into the conference title game. Not one of the seven offenses in the division averaged more than 25 points per game this season, with Illinois' 84th-ranked unit the best in the West.

It's tough to grade Michigan's performance in the contest, as its offense struggled to move the ball. While a large part of that is due to Iowa's strong defensive performance, it also has to be difficult for an offense to stay locked in when a single field goal is likely enough to win the game. The Wolverines now wait to see if they grab the No. 1 or No. 2 spot in the CFP rankings on Sunday. With Florida State likely poised to take the No. 4 slot and set to start backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker in the semi, that's an important spot to grab.

As for Iowa - nobody is going to feel worse in the morning than any fans in Cedar Rapids who took part in this promo from a local bar:

Texas emphatically makes case

The day began with a report that Quinn Ewers was likely to return to Texas next season. You'd forgive the talented passer if he changed his mind and declared for the NFL draft at halftime of the Big 12 title game. Ewers absolutely torched the Oklahoma State defense over the opening 30 minutes, piling up an absurd 354 yards and four touchdowns before Nelly hit the field for the halftime show. The Ohio State transfer ended the day with a Big 12 title-game record 452 yards through the air in the blowout win.

With a loss already on the schedule, the Longhorns knew that style points might matter coming down the stretch of the season in the eyes of the committee. After hanging 57 points on Texas Tech in the season finale, Steve Sarkisian took advantage of Oklahoma State's 116th-ranked defensive unit from the opening gun. The Longhorns scored five touchdowns on the opening six drives of the contest before taking their foot off the gas slightly in the second half. Texas' last two wins have come by a combined 106-28 margin - certainly enough to leave a lasting impression on the committee.

Texas now plays the waiting game, hoping for Florida State, Georgia, or Michigan to lose later on Saturday and grab a CFP spot. The Longhorns' resume is the best of the one-loss teams at the moment, with the Week 2 victory at Alabama looming large. Regardless of playoff standing, it's clear Sarkisian has Texas fully back among the nation's elite.

DeBoer, Washington are unflappable

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The Pac-12 went out with an absolute banger on Friday, with Washington completing the perfect season with an impressive win in the rematch with Oregon. Kalen DeBoer and Dan Lanning have now met three times as the head coaches of their respective schools, with the Huskies winning each contest by three points. While there are a number of reasons Washington has held the narrow edge each time, a simple explanation lies in two areas: starting fast and finishing strong.

Start fast

It took about five minutes for Washington to make the spread look laughable, as the Huskies got off to a textbook start on Friday. A 15-play drive that led to an opening field goal took almost eight minutes off the clock. Bo Nix had the ball for a total of 25 seconds as a quick three-and-out saw Oregon punt back to the Huskies. Penix then led a six-play, 50-yard drive for a touchdown to grab a quick 10-0 lead. The final numbers from the opening quarter were staggering: a 117-9 edge in total yardage, with Oregon possessing the ball for just 1:47 of the 15-minute frame. With Friday's game now in the books, DeBoer's Huskies have outscored Oregon by a whopping 31-11 margin in the opening quarter of their three meetings.

Finish strong

Oregon may have botched the opening quarter, but the Ducks came alive over quarters two and three. After falling behind 20-3, Oregon roared back to score 21 unanswered and hold a 24-20 edge entering the final frame. Once again, DeBoer and Washington owned the fourth quarter, outscoring the Ducks 14-7 to make the advantage 31-17 over the three matchups between the teams. That makes the scoring margin over the first and fourth quarters in the three-game series an outrageous 62-28 in favor of Washington.

Perhaps the most important aspect of closing out a game on offense is the ability to convert third downs. That keeps the ball out of the hands of the opposition and the clock ticking down to zero. Washington was a perfect 4-for-4 on third down on the final two scoring drives of the game. That helped the Huskies hold the ball for 11:11 of the final quarter. Adding that to the first quarter, Washington held the ball for 24:24 of a possible 30 minutes.

Washington will now return to the CFP for the first time since 2016 - which also doubles as the last time the Pac-12 appeared in the semifinals. With Michael Penix at the controls, Dillon Johnson churning out yards on the ground, and three future NFL receivers out wide, the Huskies will be a tough out for anybody who draws them on New Year's Day.

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